My friend Jana Videira took some great photos of the Women's Sewing Coop when she came to visit us in Robertsport. I'm using the occasion to introduce you to a few of the women in the group. Thank you, Jana!
Bendu is one of the Team Leaders. She is the most serious of our members and the most matronly, regularly appealing to her authority as the eldest woman in the Coop to boss other members around. She was our first project manager. As Team Leader, she's responsible for quality control and cloth cutting. Before each meeting, she measures each finished bag and collects them from the women in her team, just like she's doing in the photo above.
Early on, I bought Bendu a phone, she we never used it, referring to all sorts of SIM card problems and issues with the machine. After repeated attempts to reach her over a series of months (not weeks), I finally took it back and kept it in a drawer. My own phone was stolen last week, so I had the occasion to use it, and it works just fine.
This is Teresa, who joined the Coop after being talked up by Bendu as a talented seamstress of African fashions. "She know how to sew," Bendu would nod at me emphatically. Teresa is older and chill, like Bendu. She has a real eye for quality sewing and is responsible for teaching everyone the thick hem stitching on the beach bags -- an innovation that improved quality.
This is one of my favorite photos and the only one not taking facing the beach. The grove of trees we've cleared looks more like a forest, and Teresa looks relaxed and right at home.
This is Botoe, modelling the Fish Bone and Bunnies beach bag prints. Your can see her making the Bunnies bag with her daughter in the one above.
The first photo was taken by the inlet at Inner Cotton Trees, which is always shifting with the tide. Botoe is one of the most beautiful women in the sewing Coop and was one of the first to want to model them with Jana. At the time of the photo shoot, Botoe had two children. She lost her little boy a few weeks ago, a sadness which I'll write more about it a little bit.
Mariama is the granddaughter of the Community Chief. She's small and looks quiet: she never even spoke our first couple of meetings. We pass Mariama's house on the way to the Community Campsite in Robertsport every week and I usually see her, pounding cassava for fufu or doing something in the house. She has a really cute daughter who comes to all of our meetings. Mariama also helps cook lunch -- usually cassava leaf and dried fish -- for the community volunteers after the monthly beach cleanups.
We first started doing real quality control during one endlessly rainy weekend, when we held our meeting in the restaurant/bar area at Nana's Lodge next door to the Campsite. It rained the whole time. I recruited Nate to come and help me measure each bag and hold its seams up to the light. When it was her turn, Mariama found it excruciating. "My bag is fine. It will pass!" she shouted at Nate, laughing and nervous. "Mariama! I thought you were shy!" I teased her, and all of the women shook their heads, laughing.
This is Jebbeh. She was one of the young women in the kitchen with me the week I ran the Robertsport Cooking School out of Nana's Lodge. She looks rather striking in this picture, and doesn't usually make such an open expression. She'll like this photo when we print it out for her.
Tina is the other Team Leader. She was the smartest person I trained in the Nana's Kitchen when we ran the cooking school. She still makes me fresh lime juice over the weekends and prepares Nate and I our dinner plates and brings them to our table. Tina is the best.
This is Matilda. She works at Nana's Lodge and will be our third Team Leader as the Coop expands in the future. She's showing off a bag in Taxi lapa, one of our more popular patterns in the beginning. Matilda sewed all the bags for them, so we call this "her lapa."
Stay tuned as we keep growing and thanks to all of you who have supported our products!